It used to be that if you needed extra cash you could work overtime or find a part-time job.
But these days, when companies are cutting back on workers' hours - and even Starbucks is laying off baristas - you might have to resort to nontraditional ways to raise money.
Search engine Yahoo says many people are doing just that by going online. In the past month, searches for "make money online" have risen 1,725 percent, Yahoo says.
"People are looking to do whatever they have to do to make ends meet," says Heather Cabot, Yahoo Web life editor.
And they aren't just searching for jobs; they are looking to sell all sorts of stuff. Recent searches for "donate eggs for money" are off the charts, Cabot says.
Cabot's job is to spot online trends for Yahoo. When it comes to making a few bucks via the Internet, here are some recommendations from the practical to the unusual:
* Volunteer to be part of a focus group at findfocusgroups.com and get paid from $50 to $200, Cabot says. Plug in your city or state and see if any marketing groups there are seeking focus group participants. For example, mothers ages 21 to 50 can earn $100 next week being part of a focus group in Chicago. Alas, no focus group postings at this time for Maryland.
* Freelancers can connect with companies needing help at elance.com. Jobs range from legal and finance to engineering and sales. "There are tons of projects for people who have Web and programming experience," Cabot says. Companies post jobs, and freelancers bid for work. Businesses also can rate freelancers so that other companies will know the quality of your work.
* If running errands, tutoring or baby-sitting pets is more your thing, check out domystuff.com. People post tasks with which they need help, and would-be assistants can bid on the job.
* Don't throw old electronics or gadgets away. Your wallet and the environment will thank you if you sell electronics to companies that recycle parts, such as buymytronics.com, gazelle.com and myboneyard.com.
* More than a century after the publication of O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi, the Internet has taken selling your hair to a new level. Sell your locks for $150 and more at thehairtrader.com to buyers who might want your strands for wigs or extensions.
* No reason you can't profit from a breakup. Sell old gifts of jewelry at exboyfriendjewelry. com. One woman going through a divorce is selling - "best offer" - a Gucci diamond watch, while another is selling an emerald-diamond necklace for $100. Despite the site's name, men and women can sell their ex's gifts.
Of course, make sure you do your research when seeking financial opportunities online.
"Always be a little bit on guard," Cabot says. "There are unsavory people who are trying to exploit the fact that many people are in very desperate situations."
If you are selling a service or item online, consider going to online networking sites based in your community, where you are more likely to know the people you're dealing with, she says.
And avoid job sites that ask for money upfront or require you to recruit others. "That's a big red flag," Cabot says.
Find more Eileen Ambrose columns at baltimoresun.com/ambrose